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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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October 28, 2008

Storytime with Grandpa


My father-in-law lives five minutes away. He drops by with pistachio muffins, glazed donut twists and Granny Smith apples. He takes Jillian to the indoor playscape at Burger King and brings Janine math workbooks during the summer so she'll stay fresh on her multiplication facts. Back when my son was a toddler, Lowell was such an attentive grandpa that he became known among my friends as "Ben's Personal Assistant."

He's a Jewish grandfather. Although he grew up going to Hebrew school and his parents spoke Yiddish at home, he's not observant. His bonds are cultural ones that come from working out daily at the local Jewish community center.

He signed up at the center for a children's Book of the Month club, and every few weeks, he knocks on our door with a new paperback. As I finished some work at my desk, I heard him read the newest story to Jillian at our kitchen table. It was "The Only One Club," a picture book about a little girl, Jennifer, who discovers that she's the only Jewish kid in her first grade class. The story celebrates the unique qualities that Jennifer and each of her classmates bring to their school.

It's a theme, explained in the book jacket, that I applaud. "Central to Jewish thought is the concept that each person in the world is unique and of infinite value. This idea is important not only because it explains what we all know to be true -- that while people can be remarkably similar, they are never the same -- but it also serves to remind us that every person can offer the world something that is uniquely his or hers. Recognizing that each person is unique and infinitely valuable should not only remind us to treat each other with the highest regard, but also teach us that no person is better, or more worthy, than another."

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